How Not to Get Scammed By “Charity” Donations

online scam
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We would love to say that everyone in the world is good and no one would rip people off under the pretense of being a charity… but that’s simply not true.

Last week, a woman from Tacoma, Washington stole from a Christmas tree charity sale that intended for all profits to go toward improving local neighborhoods. After Hurricane Sandy, many scams were set up to trick people into “donating” money—money that would never make it to the victims. And now, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, we’re seeing the same pattern emerge. “Charities” are popping up all over the place, but unfortunately most of them are just scammers looking to steal, once more, from those who need it the most.

The biggest problem—aside from the horrible act of stealing from charity—is that it makes potential donors hesitant to give money. What if it’s not a real charity? Some figure it’s better not to donate if their money might not even make it to the intended destination. But these causes still need our help.

There’s a smarter way to do things. Charity Navigator is a website with an online database that lists thousands of legitimate charities and financial information such as revenues, operating costs, and percentage of funds that go to the cause. Charities listed there are registered non-profit organizations.

Sometimes the most surefire way to make sure your donation goes where you want it is to rely on large, well-known national organizations like Red Cross. Many of these are very efficiently run and let you donate to specific causes, such as Sandy Hook. News sites will sometimes also mention charities that are appropriate and safe to donate to.

Don’t let scammers hold you back from donating. Just be careful not to play into their hands. Doing your research and taking a little extra time to ensure that the charity you’re donating to is legitimate should keep you safe from “donating” to not-so-charitable “charities.”